By Aubrey Byron, News Editor

A former St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, was found not guilty of first degree murder on September 15 for the 2011 shooting death of Anthony Smith. Stockley waived his right to a jury of his peers and the trial was presided over by St. Louis Circuit Judge Tim Wilson. Judge Wilson cited reasonable doubt in his statement while delivering the verdict.

In response to the verdict, protests have erupted in Downtown St. Louis and Central West End neighborhoods. Many businesses in the area closed early and sent employees home. Protests remained largely peaceful as of Friday. However police and protesters have reported the use of mace on the crowds.

A woman with a milk-stained face being interviewed by Now This recalled, “We were holding our ground. We were peacefully protesting…And they maced us.” Milk is commonly used to neutralize the burning side effects of mace and tear gas.

Several local politicians attended the Friday protests, including state representatives Bruce Franks Jr. and Peter Merideth, Alderwoman Megan-Ellyia Green, and Congressman Lacy Clay. In an interview in front of the protests, Clay expressed “absolute outrage” at the case.

The tone of the protests turned less peaceful on Friday night, as demonstrators marched in the Central West End. Police confirmed on Twitter that protesters gathered in front of Mayor Lyda Krewson’s Central West End home for some time. A window was vandalized before police presence forced protesters to disburse. Videos streamed on Facebook Live showed police deploying tear gas and shooting rubber bullets to clear the area.

Governor Eric Greitens made the decision to deploy the National Guard midday Friday. He gave the following statement: “We know this verdict causes pain for many people. We have been in touch with city and county officials, and the State of Missouri will continue to assist them. I’m committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully, while also protecting people’s lives, homes, and communities. For anyone who protests, please do so peacefully.”

Many local officials echoed the call for peaceful demonstrations, such as St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson. State Representative Michael Butler, in contrast, articulated the protesters’ frustration in his statement:

“This system and all the politicians calling for peace are ignoring the pain this verdict causes our communities. Anthony Lamar Smith is dead from a violent act and you want us to be peaceful? You want us to not feel anger? The very people paid to protect us are killing us, paid to make peace are perpetuating violence, and we are supposed to be peaceful?” He later added, “We will be non-violent but we will not settle on peace. No justice. No peace.” State Representative Butler is the House Minority Caucus Chairman.

Upon delivering the verdict, the Judge wrote an unusual thirty page document explaining the Court’s reasonable doubt in the case. One line has become a rallying cry for the demonstrators protesting the decision. “Finally, the Court observes, based on its nearly thirty years on the bench, that an urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.”

Footage captured on a police vehicle dash camera of the defendant served as key evidence in the trial. The footage, released to the public, showed Stockley stating he would “kill this [expletive].” It also features several trips to and from the vehicle which the State point to as a possibility for a planting a weapon.

The case has continued to gain national attention with the hashtag #Stlverdict trending on Twitter.

The reaction to the shooting has paralleled other cases of police shootings of black men, such as of Philandro Castile, Tamir Rice, and most notably Michael Brown. The 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Brown launched the Black Lives Matter movement and spurred protests in Ferguson and across the nation.

Several events scheduled for the weekend have been rescheduled or cancelled, including 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer’s and the 45th Annual Moonlight Ramble. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race and Balloon Glow carried on as scheduled.

An email sent by University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor, Tom George, to students and faculty Friday morning included the following statement: “…we are asking faculty to be flexible and make appropriate accommodations for students who have demonstrated obstacles to attending regular courses.”

The statement continued, “We have always been proud of the way in which the UMSL community responds to regional issues – providing professional support to those in need and a safe harbor for civil discussions of solutions. We fully expect that to be the case as the region debates the ramifications of the Stockley case.”

 

The case has continued to gain national attention with the hashtag #Stlverdict trending on Twitter.

The reaction to the shooting has paralleled other cases of police shootings of black men, such as of Philandro Castile, Tamir Rice, and most notably Michael Brown. The 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Brown launched the Black Lives Matter movement and spurred protests in Ferguson and across the nation.

Several events scheduled for the weekend have been rescheduled or cancelled, including 2017 Walk to End Alzheimer’s and the 45th Annual Moonlight Ramble. The Great Forest Park Balloon Race and Balloon Glow carried on as scheduled.

An email sent by University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor, Tom George, to students and faculty Friday morning included the following statement: “…we are asking faculty to be flexible and make appropriate accommodations for students who have demonstrated obstacles to attending regular courses.”

The statement continued, “We have always been proud of the way in which the UMSL community responds to regional issues – providing professional support to those in need and a safe harbor for civil discussions of solutions. We fully expect that to be the case as the region debates the ramifications of the Stockley case.”